Tcpdump prints out a description of the contents of packets on a network interface that match the boolean expression. It can also be run with the -w flag, which causes it to save the packet data to a file for later analysis, and/or with the -r flag, which causes it to read from a saved packet file rather than to read packets from a network interface. In all cases, only packets that match expression will be processed by tcpdump.
Tcpdump will, if not run with the -c flag, continue capturing packets until it is interrupted by a SIGINT signal (generated, for example, by typing your interrupt character, typically control-C) or a SIGTERM signal (typically generated with the kill(1) command); if run with the -c flag, it will capture packets until it is interrupted by a SIGINT or SIGTERM signal or the specified number of packets have been processed.
When tcpdump finishes capturing packets, it will report counts of:
On platforms that support the SIGINFO signal, such as most BSDs (including Mac OS X) and Digital/Tru64 UNIX, it will report those counts when it receives a SIGINFO signal (generated, for example, by typing your ``status'' character, typically control-T, although on some platforms, such as Mac OS X, the ``status'' character is not set by default, so you must set it with stty(1) in order to use it) and will continue capturing packets.
Reading packets from a network interface may require that you have special privileges; see the pcap (3PCAP) man page for details. Reading a saved packet file doesn't require special privileges.
For the expression syntax, see pcap-filter(7).
Expression arguments can be passed to tcpdump as either a single argument or as multiple arguments, whichever is more convenient. Generally, if the expression contains Shell metacharacters, it is easier to pass it as a single, quoted argument. Multiple arguments are concatenated with spaces before being parsed.
To print all packets arriving at or departing from sundown:
tcpdump host sundown
To print traffic between helios and either hot or ace:
tcpdump host helios and \( hot or ace \)
To print all IP packets between ace and any host except helios:
tcpdump ip host ace and not helios
To print all traffic between local hosts and hosts at Berkeley:
tcpdump net ucb-ether
To print all ftp traffic through internet gateway snup: (note that the expression is quoted to prevent the shell from (mis-)interpreting the parentheses):
tcpdump 'gateway snup and (port ftp or ftp-data)'
To print traffic neither sourced from nor destined for local hosts (if you gateway to one other net, this stuff should never make it onto your local net).
tcpdump ip and not net localnet
To print the start and end packets (the SYN and FIN packets) of each TCP conversation that involves a non-local host.
tcpdump 'tcp[tcpflags] & (tcp-syn|tcp-fin) != 0 and not src and dst net localnet'
To print all IPv4 HTTP packets to and from port 80, i.e. print only packets that contain data, not, for example, SYN and FIN packets and ACK-only packets. (IPv6 is left as an exercise for the reader.)
tcpdump 'tcp port 80 and (((ip[2:2] - ((ip&0xf)<<2)) - ((tcp&0xf0)>>2)) != 0)'
To print IP packets longer than 576 bytes sent through gateway snup:
tcpdump 'gateway snup and ip[2:2] > 576'
To print IP broadcast or multicast packets that were not sent via Ethernet broadcast or multicast:
tcpdump 'ether & 1 = 0 and ip >= 224'
To print all ICMP packets that are not echo requests/replies (i.e., not ping packets):
tcpdump 'icmp[icmptype] != icmp-echo and icmp[icmptype] != icmp-echoreply'
The output of tcpdump is protocol dependent. The following gives a brief description and examples of most of the formats.
Link Level Headers
If the '-e' option is given, the link level header is printed out. On Ethernets, the source and destination addresses, protocol, and packet length are printed.
On FDDI networks, the '-e' option causes tcpdump to print the `frame control' field, the source and destination addresses, and the packet length. (The `frame control' field governs the interpretation of the rest of the packet. Normal packets (such as those containing IP datagrams) are `async' packets, with a priority value between 0 and 7; for example, `async4'. Such packets are assumed to contain an 802.2 Logical Link Control (LLC) packet; the LLC header is printed if it is not an ISO datagram or a so-called SNAP packet.
On Token Ring networks, the '-e' option causes tcpdump to print the `access control' and `frame control' fields, the source and destination addresses, and the packet length. As on FDDI networks, packets are assumed to contain an LLC packet. Regardless of whether the '-e' option is specified or not, the source routing information is printed for source-routed packets.
On 802.11 networks, the '-e' option causes tcpdump to print the `frame control' fields, all of the addresses in the 802.11 header, and the packet length. As on FDDI networks, packets are assumed to contain an LLC packet.
(N.B.: The following description assumes familiarity with the SLIP compression algorithm described in RFC-1144.)
On SLIP links, a direction indicator (``I'' for inbound, ``O'' for outbound), packet type, and compression information are printed out. The packet type is printed first. The three types are ip, utcp, and ctcp. No further link information is printed for ip packets. For TCP packets, the connection identifier is printed following the type. If the packet is compressed, its encoded header is printed out. The special cases are printed out as *S+n and *SA+n, where n is the amount by which the sequence number (or sequence number and ack) has changed. If it is not a special case, zero or more changes are printed. A change is indicated by U (urgent pointer), W (window), A (ack), S (sequence number), and I (packet ID), followed by a delta (+n or -n), or a new value (=n). Finally, the amount of data in the packet and compressed header length are printed.
For example, the following line shows an outbound compressed TCP packet, with an implicit connection identifier; the ack has changed by 6, the sequence number by 49, and the packet ID by 6; there are 3 bytes of data and 6 bytes of compressed header:
O ctcp * A+6 S+49 I+6 3 (6)
Arp/rarp output shows the type of request and its arguments. The format is intended to be self explanatory. Here is a short sample taken from the start of an `rlogin' from host rtsg to host csam:
arp who-has csam tell rtsg arp reply csam is-at CSAM
This would look less redundant if we had done tcpdump -n:
arp who-has 22.214.171.124 tell 126.96.36.199 arp reply 188.8.131.52 is-at 02:07:01:00:01:c4
If we had done tcpdump -e, the fact that the first packet is broadcast and the second is point-to-point would be visible:
RTSG Broadcast 0806 64: arp who-has csam tell rtsg CSAM RTSG 0806 64: arp reply csam is-at CSAM
(N.B.:The following description assumes familiarity with the TCP protocol described in RFC-793. If you are not familiar with the protocol, neither this description nor tcpdump will be of much use to you.)
The general format of a tcp protocol line is:
src > dst: flags data-seqno ack window urgent options
Src, dst and flags are always present. The other fields depend on the contents of the packet's tcp protocol header and are output only if appropriate.
Here is the opening portion of an rlogin from host rtsg to host csam.
rtsg.1023 > csam.login: S 768512:768512(0) win 4096 <mss 1024> csam.login > rtsg.1023: S 947648:947648(0) ack 768513 win 4096 <mss 1024> rtsg.1023 > csam.login: . ack 1 win 4096 rtsg.1023 > csam.login: P 1:2(1) ack 1 win 4096 csam.login > rtsg.1023: . ack 2 win 4096 rtsg.1023 > csam.login: P 2:21(19) ack 1 win 4096 csam.login > rtsg.1023: P 1:2(1) ack 21 win 4077 csam.login > rtsg.1023: P 2:3(1) ack 21 win 4077 urg 1 csam.login > rtsg.1023: P 3:4(1) ack 21 win 4077 urg 1
Csam replies with a similar packet except it includes a piggy-backed ack for rtsg's SYN. Rtsg then acks csam's SYN. The `.' means the ACK flag was set. The packet contained no data so there is no data sequence number. Note that the ack sequence number is a small integer (1). The first time tcpdump sees a tcp `conversation', it prints the sequence number from the packet. On subsequent packets of the conversation, the difference between the current packet's sequence number and this initial sequence number is printed. This means that sequence numbers after the first can be interpreted as relative byte positions in the conversation's data stream (with the first data byte each direction being `1'). `-S' will override this feature, causing the original sequence numbers to be output.
On the 6th line, rtsg sends csam 19 bytes of data (bytes 2 through 20 in the rtsg → csam side of the conversation). The PUSH flag is set in the packet. On the 7th line, csam says it's received data sent by rtsg up to but not including byte 21. Most of this data is apparently sitting in the socket buffer since csam's receive window has gotten 19 bytes smaller. Csam also sends one byte of data to rtsg in this packet. On the 8th and 9th lines, csam sends two bytes of urgent, pushed data to rtsg.
If the snapshot was small enough that tcpdump didn't capture the full TCP header, it interprets as much of the header as it can and then reports ``[|tcp]'' to indicate the remainder could not be interpreted. If the header contains a bogus option (one with a length that's either too small or beyond the end of the header), tcpdump reports it as ``[bad opt]'' and does not interpret any further options (since it's impossible to tell where they start). If the header length indicates options are present but the IP datagram length is not long enough for the options to actually be there, tcpdump reports it as ``[bad hdr length]''.
Capturing TCP packets with particular flag combinations (SYN-ACK, URG-ACK, etc.)
There are 8 bits in the control bits section of the TCP header:
Let's assume that we want to watch packets used in establishing a TCP connection. Recall that TCP uses a 3-way handshake protocol when it initializes a new connection; the connection sequence with regard to the TCP control bits is
Now we're interested in capturing packets that have only the SYN bit set (Step 1). Note that we don't want packets from step 2 (SYN-ACK), just a plain initial SYN. What we need is a correct filter expression for tcpdump.
Recall the structure of a TCP header without options:
0 15 31 ----------------------------------------------------------------- | source port | destination port | ----------------------------------------------------------------- | sequence number | ----------------------------------------------------------------- | acknowledgment number | ----------------------------------------------------------------- | HL | rsvd |C|E|U|A|P|R|S|F| window size | ----------------------------------------------------------------- | TCP checksum | urgent pointer | -----------------------------------------------------------------
A TCP header usually holds 20 octets of data, unless options are present. The first line of the graph contains octets 0 - 3, the second line shows octets 4 - 7 etc.
Starting to count with 0, the relevant TCP control bits are contained in octet 13:
0 7| 15| 23| 31 ----------------|---------------|---------------|---------------- | HL | rsvd |C|E|U|A|P|R|S|F| window size | ----------------|---------------|---------------|---------------- | | 13th octet | | |
Let's have a closer look at octet no. 13:
| | |---------------| |C|E|U|A|P|R|S|F| |---------------| |7 5 3 0|
These are the TCP control bits we are interested in. We have numbered the bits in this octet from 0 to 7, right to left, so the PSH bit is bit number 3, while the URG bit is number 5.
Recall that we want to capture packets with only SYN set. Let's see what happens to octet 13 if a TCP datagram arrives with the SYN bit set in its header:
|C|E|U|A|P|R|S|F| |---------------| |0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0| |---------------| |7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0|
Looking at the control bits section we see that only bit number 1 (SYN) is set.
Assuming that octet number 13 is an 8-bit unsigned integer in network byte order, the binary value of this octet is
and its decimal representation is
7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 0*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 1*2 + 0*2 = 2
We're almost done, because now we know that if only SYN is set, the value of the 13th octet in the TCP header, when interpreted as a 8-bit unsigned integer in network byte order, must be exactly 2.
This relationship can be expressed as
We can use this expression as the filter for tcpdump in order to watch packets which have only SYN set:
The expression says "let the 13th octet of a TCP datagram have the decimal value 2", which is exactly what we want.
Now, let's assume that we need to capture SYN packets, but we don't care if ACK or any other TCP control bit is set at the same time. Let's see what happens to octet 13 when a TCP datagram with SYN-ACK set arrives:
|C|E|U|A|P|R|S|F| |---------------| |0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0| |---------------| |7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0|
Now bits 1 and 4 are set in the 13th octet. The binary value of octet 13 is
which translates to decimal
7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 0*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 1*2 + 0*2 + 0*2 + 1*2 + 0*2 = 18
Now we can't just use 'tcp == 18' in the tcpdump filter expression, because that would select only those packets that have SYN-ACK set, but not those with only SYN set. Remember that we don't care if ACK or any other control bit is set as long as SYN is set.
In order to achieve our goal, we need to logically AND the binary value of octet 13 with some other value to preserve the SYN bit. We know that we want SYN to be set in any case, so we'll logically AND the value in the 13th octet with the binary value of a SYN:
00010010 SYN-ACK 00000010 SYN AND 00000010 (we want SYN) AND 00000010 (we want SYN) -------- -------- = 00000010 = 00000010
We see that this AND operation delivers the same result regardless whether ACK or another TCP control bit is set. The decimal representation of the AND value as well as the result of this operation is 2 (binary 00000010), so we know that for packets with SYN set the following relation must hold true:
This points us to the tcpdump filter expression
Some offsets and field values may be expressed as names rather than as numeric values. For example tcp may be replaced with tcp[tcpflags]. The following TCP flag field values are also available: tcp-fin, tcp-syn, tcp-rst, tcp-push, tcp-act, tcp-urg.
This can be demonstrated as:
Note that you should use single quotes or a backslash in the expression to hide the AND ('&') special character from the shell.
UDP format is illustrated by this rwho packet:
actinide.who > broadcast.who: udp 84
Some UDP services are recognized (from the source or destination port number) and the higher level protocol information printed. In particular, Domain Name service requests (RFC-1034/1035) and Sun RPC calls (RFC-1050) to NFS.
UDP Name Server Requests
(N.B.:The following description assumes familiarity with the Domain Service protocol described in RFC-1035. If you are not familiar with the protocol, the following description will appear to be written in greek.)
Name server requests are formatted as
src > dst: id op? flags qtype qclass name (len) h2opolo.1538 > helios.domain: 3+ A? ucbvax.berkeley.edu. (37)
A few anomalies are checked and may result in extra fields enclosed in square brackets: If a query contains an answer, authority records or additional records section, ancount, nscount, or arcount are printed as `[na]', `[nn]' or `[nau]' where n is the appropriate count. If any of the response bits are set (AA, RA or rcode) or any of the `must be zero' bits are set in bytes two and three, `[b2&3=x]' is printed, where x is the hex value of header bytes two and three.
UDP Name Server Responses
Name server responses are formatted as
src > dst: id op rcode flags a/n/au type class data (len) helios.domain > h2opolo.1538: 3 3/3/7 A 184.108.40.206 (273) helios.domain > h2opolo.1537: 2 NXDomain* 0/1/0 (97)
In the second example, helios responds to query 2 with a response code of non-existent domain (NXDomain) with no answers, one name server and no authority records. The `*' indicates that the authoritative answer bit was set. Since there were no answers, no type, class or data were printed.
Other flag characters that might appear are `-' (recursion available, RA, not set) and `|' (truncated message, TC, set). If the `question' section doesn't contain exactly one entry, `[nq]' is printed.
tcpdump now includes fairly extensive SMB/CIFS/NBT decoding for data on UDP/137, UDP/138 and TCP/139. Some primitive decoding of IPX and NetBEUI SMB data is also done.
By default a fairly minimal decode is done, with a much more detailed decode done if -v is used. Be warned that with -v a single SMB packet may take up a page or more, so only use -v if you really want all the gory details.
For information on SMB packet formats and what all te fields mean see www.cifs.org or the pub/samba/specs/ directory on your favorite samba.org mirror site. The SMB patches were written by Andrew Tridgell (firstname.lastname@example.org).
NFS Requests and Replies
Sun NFS (Network File System) requests and replies are printed as:
src.xid > dst.nfs: len op args src.nfs > dst.xid: reply stat len op results sushi.6709 > wrl.nfs: 112 readlink fh 21,24/10.73165 wrl.nfs > sushi.6709: reply ok 40 readlink "../var" sushi.201b > wrl.nfs: 144 lookup fh 9,74/4096.6878 "xcolors" wrl.nfs > sushi.201b: reply ok 128 lookup fh 9,74/4134.3150
In the third line, sushi asks wrl to lookup the name `xcolors' in directory file 9,74/4096.6878. Note that the data printed depends on the operation type. The format is intended to be self explanatory if read in conjunction with an NFS protocol spec.
If the -v (verbose) flag is given, additional information is printed. For example:
sushi.1372a > wrl.nfs: 148 read fh 21,11/12.195 8192 bytes @ 24576 wrl.nfs > sushi.1372a: reply ok 1472 read REG 100664 ids 417/0 sz 29388
If the -v flag is given more than once, even more details are printed.
Note that NFS requests are very large and much of the detail won't be printed unless snaplen is increased. Try using `-s 192' to watch NFS traffic.
NFS reply packets do not explicitly identify the RPC operation. Instead, tcpdump keeps track of ``recent'' requests, and matches them to the replies using the transaction ID. If a reply does not closely follow the corresponding request, it might not be parsable.
AFS Requests and Replies
Transarc AFS (Andrew File System) requests and replies are printed as:
src.sport > dst.dport: rx packet-type src.sport > dst.dport: rx packet-type service call call-name args src.sport > dst.dport: rx packet-type service reply call-name args elvis.7001 > pike.afsfs: rx data fs call rename old fid 536876964/1/1 ".newsrc.new" new fid 536876964/1/1 ".newsrc" pike.afsfs > elvis.7001: rx data fs reply rename
In general, all AFS RPCs are decoded at least by RPC call name. Most AFS RPCs have at least some of the arguments decoded (generally only the `interesting' arguments, for some definition of interesting).
The format is intended to be self-describing, but it will probably not be useful to people who are not familiar with the workings of AFS and RX.
If the -v (verbose) flag is given twice, acknowledgement packets and additional header information is printed, such as the the RX call ID, call number, sequence number, serial number, and the RX packet flags.
If the -v flag is given twice, additional information is printed, such as the the RX call ID, serial number, and the RX packet flags. The MTU negotiation information is also printed from RX ack packets.
If the -v flag is given three times, the security index and service id are printed.
Error codes are printed for abort packets, with the exception of Ubik beacon packets (because abort packets are used to signify a yes vote for the Ubik protocol).
Note that AFS requests are very large and many of the arguments won't be printed unless snaplen is increased. Try using `-s 256' to watch AFS traffic.
AFS reply packets do not explicitly identify the RPC operation. Instead, tcpdump keeps track of ``recent'' requests, and matches them to the replies using the call number and service ID. If a reply does not closely follow the corresponding request, it might not be parsable.
KIP AppleTalk (DDP in UDP)
AppleTalk DDP packets encapsulated in UDP datagrams are de-encapsulated and dumped as DDP packets (i.e., all the UDP header information is discarded). The file /etc/atalk.names is used to translate AppleTalk net and node numbers to names. Lines in this file have the form
number name 1.254 ether 16.1 icsd-net 1.254.110 ace
AppleTalk addresses are printed in the form
net.host.port 220.127.116.11 > icsd-net.112.220 office.2 > icsd-net.112.220 jssmag.149.235 > icsd-net.2
NBP (name binding protocol) and ATP (AppleTalk transaction protocol) packets have their contents interpreted. Other protocols just dump the protocol name (or number if no name is registered for the protocol) and packet size.
NBP packets are formatted like the following examples:
icsd-net.112.220 > jssmag.2: nbp-lkup 190: "=:LaserWriter@*" jssmag.209.2 > icsd-net.112.220: nbp-reply 190: "RM1140:LaserWriter@*" 250 techpit.2 > icsd-net.112.220: nbp-reply 190: "techpit:LaserWriter@*" 186
ATP packet formatting is demonstrated by the following example:
jssmag.209.165 > helios.132: atp-req 12266<0-7> 0xae030001 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:0 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:1 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:2 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:3 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:4 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:5 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:6 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp*12266:7 (512) 0xae040000 jssmag.209.165 > helios.132: atp-req 12266<3,5> 0xae030001 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:3 (512) 0xae040000 helios.132 > jssmag.209.165: atp-resp 12266:5 (512) 0xae040000 jssmag.209.165 > helios.132: atp-rel 12266<0-7> 0xae030001 jssmag.209.133 > helios.132: atp-req* 12267<0-7> 0xae030002
Helios responds with 8 512-byte packets. The `:digit' following the transaction id gives the packet sequence number in the transaction and the number in parens is the amount of data in the packet, excluding the atp header. The `*' on packet 7 indicates that the EOM bit was set.
Jssmag.209 then requests that packets 3 & 5 be retransmitted. Helios resends them then jssmag.209 releases the transaction. Finally, jssmag.209 initiates the next request. The `*' on the request indicates that XO (`exactly once') was not set.
Fragmented Internet datagrams are printed as
(frag id:size@offset+) (frag id:size@offset)
Id is the fragment id. Size is the fragment size (in bytes) excluding the IP header. Offset is this fragment's offset (in bytes) in the original datagram.
The fragment information is output for each fragment. The first fragment contains the higher level protocol header and the frag info is printed after the protocol info. Fragments after the first contain no higher level protocol header and the frag info is printed after the source and destination addresses. For example, here is part of an ftp from arizona.edu to lbl-rtsg.arpa over a CSNET connection that doesn't appear to handle 576 byte datagrams:
arizona.ftp-data > rtsg.1170: . 1024:1332(308) ack 1 win 4096 (frag 595a:328@0+) arizona > rtsg: (frag 595a:204@328) rtsg.1170 > arizona.ftp-data: . ack 1536 win 2560
A packet with the IP don't fragment flag is marked with a trailing (DF).
By default, all output lines are preceded by a timestamp. The timestamp is the current clock time in the form
Van Jacobson, Craig Leres and Steven McCanne, all of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA.
It is currently being maintained by tcpdump.org.
The current version is available via http:
The original distribution is available via anonymous ftp:
IPv6/IPsec support is added by WIDE/KAME project. This program uses Eric Young's SSLeay library, under specific configurations.
NIT doesn't let you watch your own outbound traffic, BPF will. We recommend that you use the latter.
On Linux systems with 2.0[.x] kernels:
We recommend that you upgrade to a 2.2 or later kernel.
Some attempt should be made to reassemble IP fragments or, at least to compute the right length for the higher level protocol.
Name server inverse queries are not dumped correctly: the (empty) question section is printed rather than real query in the answer section. Some believe that inverse queries are themselves a bug and prefer to fix the program generating them rather than tcpdump.
A packet trace that crosses a daylight savings time change will give skewed time stamps (the time change is ignored).
Filter expressions on fields other than those in Token Ring headers will not correctly handle source-routed Token Ring packets.
Filter expressions on fields other than those in 802.11 headers will not correctly handle 802.11 data packets with both To DS and From DS set.
ip6 proto should chase header chain, but at this moment it does not. ip6 protochain is supplied for this behavior.
Arithmetic expression against transport layer headers, like tcp, does not work against IPv6 packets. It only looks at IPv4 packets.